This list explores the things you need to do BEFORE you enter your practice space.  Go through the list and make sure you have all the information and resources you need.  This is the “work before the work.”

  1. Make sure your motivations are clear.
  2. Be aware of the things that can bore or frustrate you and plan around them.
  3. Spell out your SMART goals.
  4. Make sure you have all your RESOURCES on hand.
  5. Face any fears you may have.
  6. Turn you SMART goals into a plan for the year, semester, month, week, day, and session. In other words, schedule your practice TIME in accordance with your goals.
  7. Know your learning style and plan accordingly.
  8. Minimize potential distractions or interruptions.
  9. Make sure to translate your SMART goals into Specific, measurable actions
  10. Have a clear end point in mind for your goals. Know how you want to sound.  Clearly identify your models and inspiration.

Ten Actions while you Practice

  1. Change tempo (play the passage faster or slower)
  2. Change rhythm (make it simpler or more complex)
  3. Change melody (reduce the melody to a single tone, remove or add leaps, change octaves)
  4. Change the expressive markings (dynamics, rubato, tempo.)
  5. Isolate the PWP (problem with the problem): counting, articulation, etc
  6. Rehearse related skills (sing, clap, buzz, maintain a steady tempo)
  7. Take extreme risks (Play it too loud, too soft, too fast, too slow)
  8. Repetition drills (strive for a perfect 10 in a row before moving on)
  9. Compare to models (listen to recordings, peers, and your teachers).
  10. Get feedback (audio/video recording, lessons, mirror).

Ten Actions after you Practice

  1. Compare the session goals with reality (what actually happened).
  2. Ask for feedback from friends, peers, teachers, etc. Consider playing recordings for them and get their feedback. It may be easier to concentrate on their comments when you aren’t playing.
  3. Evaluate whether your goals were specific enough.
  4. Evaluate whether the measurements were appropriate, too challenging or too easy.
  5. Analyze the actions that were of most use.
  6. Consider reasons some actions were unsuccessful and modify or replace them.
  7. Evaluate whether you had appropriate resources for the task at hand.
  8. Evaluate whether the time frame you set was appropriate. Was it too aggressive? Not aggressive enough?
  9. Have your motivations changed in such a way that your SMART goals need to be modified?
  10. If things didn’t go as planned, was there a reason or is it possible you just had a bad day.


excerpt from “Music Practice Coach,”

About the Author

LANCE LADUKE is internationally known as an educator, performer and creator. He teaches at Carnegie Mellon University as Artist Lecturer in Euphonium, Freshman Advisor and Coordinator of Special and Creative Projects. Lance teaches business, marketing and communications as part of the CMU Music Entrepreneurship Program, coaches and mentors a variety of chamber ensembles and is also Adjunct Professor of Euphonium at Duquesne University. Lance was a member of Boston Brass and the US Air Force Band in Washington DC, has performed with the Philadelphia Orchestra and currently plays with the River City Brass. He has taught and/or given master classes at some of the world’s finest conservatories, including Juilliard, the Royal Academy of Music in London and the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts. Lance co-wrote and produced “Band Blast Off,” a highly successful band recruiting DVD and maintains an active speaking career, sharing his thoughts on practice, leadership, and self-development. His wildly successful book, “Music Practice Coach, Five Workouts to Get the Most Out of Your Practice Time!” is available as a free PDF at Lance is an Educational Ambassador for Jupiter Band Instruments.

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